By Anne Lucey
There has been an outbreak of COVID-19 in a Department of Justice Direct Provision Centre premises in Killarney – with two cases at Linden House Killarney – one of three Direct Provision Centres in the town.
Well-informed sources have confirmed two men at the all-male provision centre for 55 people tested positive over two weeks ago and were removed from the centre initially. They have since recovered.
There have been no further outbreaks at the centre, as far as is known.
The failure by the Department to inform the community in Killarney has come under fire.
The opening of what was a third Direct Provision Centre in Killarney, with very little notice, at the former guesthouse and restaurant opposite a number of primary schools and the town’s garda station led to public protests in December 2017.
Local Cllr Donal Grady (Ind), who organised one of the marches, had called for the building, which is privately owned, to be leased by the Council and used for local homeless persons.
This week, Cllr Grady said he wanted a detailed breakdown of all transfers of asylum seekers to centres in Killarney since the pandemic. He said the community should have been informed of the outbreak in Killarney and he was raising the matter at the weekly web meetings between councillors and management.
He wanted to know if the centre had been locked down because of the positive tests there.
Cllr Grady also said he was asking the Department of Justice about movements to centres in Killarney during the pandemic.
“Why were public representatives and the public not informed of the outbreak at Linden House?” Cllr Grady said.
His criticism comes as Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan apologised to the people of Cahersiveen for the anger and upset caused by the opening of a Direct Provision Centre in Cahersiveen during the pandemic and for the damage to an initially positive relationship with the community because of lack of communication surrounding an outbreak there.
Meanwhile the Department of Justice said the figure for residents currently residing in accommodation centres in Kerry have not increased.
As of May 10, there were 517 people being accommodated in accommodation centres in Kerry.
There is an overall total contracted capacity of 671 in the county.
Final moves to centres nationwide were effected on April 14 and April 15, in conjunction with the HSE.
The HSE said in any confirmed outbreak of COVID-19, consultants from the Department of Public Health are involved in an Outbreak Control Team and provide advice on the management of the outbreak.
“Where there are outbreaks in residential facilities which are not under our control (including direct provision centres), the local Department of Public Health gives clear advice to both the management and the residents of the centres to support them in responding appropriately,” it said.
“In any case where someone has tested positive for COVID-19, they are asked to self-isolate for 14 days.”